Having never been to Istanbul, I’ve done the next best thing — or so it feels upon reading The Pleasures of Empty Lots by Efe Murad, poet, translator, and scholar extraordinaire. There’s no mention, unfortunately, of this remarkable booklet in the omnibus roundup Read Your Way Through Istanbul, which appeared yesterday in The NY Times Book Review. (Perhaps it was too much to expect from a mainstream organ of received wisdom.)
After all, as Murad writes, “This humble chapbook is a record of the unheard and the unseen, which can only be experienced by those who find pleasure in ephemeral escapades. It is a longing for a clean slate, a tribute to benevolent loitering.”
It’s also more than that. It is in the most vivid, personal terms a manifesto for artistic freedom and — necessarily — social and political liberty. The spirit of it makes me think of Bolaño.
‘Contemporary Turkey is under the spell of a personality cult. Social conservatism is ascendent. Islamic discourse pervades every single aspect of daily life,
including the contretemps between poets.’ — Efe Murad